Of Dains and Ojhas

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

Once upon a time Marang Buru decided that he would teach men witchcraft. In those days there was a place at which men used to assemble to meet Marang Buru and hold council with him: but they only heard his voice and never saw his face. One day at the assembly when they had begun to tell Marang Buru of their troubles he fixed a day and told them to come to him on it, dressed all in their cleanest clothes and he would teach them witchcraft.

So the men all went home and told their wives to wash their clothes well against the fixed day, as they were going to Thakur to learn witchcraft. The women of course all began to discuss this new plan among themselves and the more they talked of it the less they liked it; it seemed to them that if the men were to get this new strange power it would make them more inclined to despise and bully women than ever; so they made a plot to get the better of their husbands. They arranged that each woman should brew some rice beer and offer it to her husband as he was starting to meet Marang Buru and beg him to drink some lest his return should be delayed. They foresaw that the men would not be able to resist the drink; and that having started they would go on till they were dead drunk: it would then be easy for the women to dress themselves like men and go off to Marang Buru and learn witchcraft in place of their husbands. So said, so done;—the women duly made their husbands drunk and then put on pagris and dhoties and stuck goats’ beards on their faces and went off to Marang Buru to learn witchcraft. Marang Buru did not detect the imposition and according to his promise taught them all the incantations of witchcraft.

After the women had come home with their new knowledge their husbands gradually recovered their senses and bethought them of their appointment with Marang Buru. So they hurried off to the meeting place and asked him to teach them what he had promised. “Why, I taught it all to you this morning,” answered Marang Buru, “what do you mean by coming to me again?” The men could not understand what he meant and protested that they had not been to him at all in the morning. “Then you must have told your wives what I was going to do!” This they could not deny: “I see,” said Marang Buru “then they must have played a trick on you and learnt the mantras in your place,” At this the men began to lament and begged that they might be taught also: but Marang Buru said that this was impossible; he could only teach them a very little; their wives had reaped the crop and they could only have the gleanings; so saying, he taught them the art of the ojha and in order that they might have the advantage of their wives in one respect and be able to overawe them he also taught them the craft of the jān and with that they had to be content. This is why only women are witches.